There are many ways to actively practice mindfulness and reap the benefits of developing mindfulness. Some of the most basic strategies to cultivate mindfulness include being mindful of just one thing at a time, being nonjudgmental, being mindful of the present moment, focusing attention on your senses, and describing your experience. While these may sound like simple or vague tasks, mindfulness exercises are not always easy. Many people who have engaged in regular meditative practices for decades continue to report moments in which their minds wander away from the present moment or times when they become reactive rather than responsive. This is natural.
Mindfulness is continually developed and strengthened over time, much like an athlete regularly trains or a musician regularly practices. Mindfulness is no different in this way… just like athletes or musicians, experienced meditators do not reach a point when they say, “All done!” We are all works in progress and in order to maintain and sustain positive growth, we must be committed to ongoing self-awareness, evaluation, and practice. There is great danger in believing that one’s personal growth, education, or skill levels have reached the pinnacle. When one believes his or her work is done and growth is complete, there is room for metaphorical weeds to grow and backpedaling. Mindfulness exercises are anything but a task to be completed or a chore to be checked off a list… this attitude would be decidedly unmindful, since it implies disconnection from the present moment.
Mindfulness exercises can be practiced anytime, anyplace, and for any length of time. There is great freedom in developing your personal mindfulness practice. No matter how busy, fatigued, or challenged you feel in the present moment, you are still breathing… right? If you are breathing, you have the opportunity to practice mindfulness. Your breath is an anchor that you carry with you at all times. Simply bringing awareness to your breath and pausing to notice the feelings associated with taking slow deep breaths in and out is making the choice to engage in a simple mindfulness exercise.
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